New Hampshire Department of Forest and Lands

Big Island Pond, Nottingham

New Hampshire Forest Statistics

The following is from USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station RB-NRS-95 Forests of Vermont and New Hampshire 2012: jointly authored with the Division of Forests and Lands.

Area of Forest Land

New Hampshire is the second most forested state in the United States (trailing Maine). Forests occupy 81 percent, or 4.8 million acres. The area of forest land has declined by 35,000 acres (percent) since 1983 but has increased from 1997 and 2007 levels.

bar graph showing forest land area in new hampshire

From 1983 through 2007 there was a loss of 3,000 acres of forest land per year mostly in the southern part of the state. The majority of this decline has been from residential development extending into previous forested areas. These losses of forest land have been tempered by abandoned farm land reverting back to forest land. The increase in forest land since 2007 has been attributed to land cleared and slated for development being halted and reverting back to forest land.

Forest land is an important contributor to the quality of life enjoyed by all New Hampshire citizens. Forests provide wood and other forest products, watershed protection, wildlife habitat and biodiversity, recreation, fall color, and much more. Stewardship of forest resources will ensure these benefits now and in the future.

Forest land is categorized as either timberland or noncommercial. Categorizing forest land is helpful in understanding resource availability and planning forest management. Timberland is defined as being physically capable of growing timber and is potentially available for harvesting. These lands support New Hampshire's wood products industry. Approximately 97 percent of forest land, an area of 4.55 million acres, is classified as timberland. The most recent inventory revealed that timberland area has increased by 32,000 acres since 2007.

Noncommercial forest land includes reserved forest lands, unproductive forests, and urban forests. Management for timber on these lands is administratively restricted or economically impractical. Examples include designated wilderness areas on the White Mountain National Forest, mountaintops with very thin soils, and forests in urban areas. The area of noncommercial forest land has increased to 296,000 acres from 2007.

chart showing forest land area trends

Who Owns New Hampshire's Forest Land?

New Hampshire's private forest-land owners are a diverse group of approximately 196,000 individuals and enterprises; they control 73 percent of New Hampshire's forest land. This is divided between forest industry and non-industrial private owners. State, federal, and other public owners hold the remaining 27 percent. The acreage owned by forest industry has dropped continued to drip since 1983. Much of this land has gone into public ownership through federal and state land acquisition. The number of owners with less than 10 acres of forest land has increase by 124,000 since 1983, yet they account for less than 10 percent of forestland holdings by area.

pie chart showing forest land acreage by ownership

These small holdings are primarily sites for houses. The number of acres owned strongly influences a landowner's motives and management activities. As forest land becomes fragmented into smaller holdings it is less likely that owners will manage these forests for timber products. The negative effects of fragmentation are a growing concern across the country.

Additional Highlights from the 2012 Inventory

  • New Hampshire in remains the second most forested State in the United States.

  • There has been an increase in forest land since the last inventory in 2007.

  • Timber resources volumes in New Hampshire have continued to increase since 1948.

  • White pine growing stock and sawtimber volume continue to dominate in New Hampshire's forests and have continued to increase since 1997.   

  • The 10 most abundant tree species in order are: red maple, white pine, hemlock, balsam fir, sugar maple, red oak, spruce, paper birch, yellow birch, beech.  

  • Average annual mortality dropped from the previous 1.0 percent to 0.8 percent which is still historically high but consistent with neighboring states.   

For a copy of Forests of Vermont and New Hampshire contact State of New Hampshire, Department of Resources and Economic Development, Division of Forests and Lands, PO Box 1856, Concord, NH 03302-1856, telephone (603) 271-2214 (supplies are limited).The document can also be found in Digital form as a PDF at this link You may also contact the Author Randall S. Morin, , phone number (610) 557-4054.

Citation:Morin, Randall S.; Barnett, Chuck J.; Butler, Brett J.; Crocker, Susan J.; Domke, Grant M.; Hansen, Mark H.; Hatfield, Mark A.; Horton, Jonathan; Kurtz, Cassandra M.; Lister, Tonya W.; Miles, Patrick D.; Nelson, Mark D.; Piva, Ronald J.; Wilmot, Sandy; Widmann, Richard H.; Woodall, Christopher W.; Zaino, Robert. 2015. Forests of Vermont and New Hampshire 2012. Resour. Bull. NRS-95. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 80 p.

NH Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and the NH Division of Forests and Lands | 172 Pembroke Road, Concord, NH 03301